Tuesday, 11 November 2014

All quiet on the Western Front

Today - on the eleventh day of the eleventh month I want to share a trip we made in September, when we took a long awaited guided coach tour with friends to Northern France and Belgium touring the Battlefields and Cemeteries of The Great War. I can't put into words how humbling this trip was and how much about the history of the war we learnt in just four days.

Our tour started in Flanders around the Belgian city of Ypres, where we visited the preserved trenches at Sanctuary Wood Trench Museum, some of the original WW1 trenches still surviving in Flanders. We saw an amazing collection of relics and photos and  were able to walk through many of the trenches.

We then went to the battlefields around Hill 62, one of the most fought over corners of the Ypres area after which we visited the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest British war cemetery in the world with just under 12,000 individual graves and a memorial wall which carries another 33,000 soldiers with no known grave.

I've never seen anything quite like it in all my life - so very humbling

Our day ended in Ypres where we attended the moving Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial.  At 8pm every evening, buglers of the local volunteer fire brigade sound the Last Post. This tradition began in 1928 and, with the exception of the period of the Seond World War when Ypres was occupied, has taken place every night since. The 30,000th occasion for this solemn event takes place on 9th July 2015.

This memorial records another 55,000 soldiers missing in the battles at
Ypres and Passchendaele 

We spent a few hours strolling around the bustling city of Ypres 
and enjoyed dinner at a pavement cafe before returning to our hotel.

The following day we went to The Somme. The Battle of the Somme began on a summer's day in July 1916 and ended in a snowstorm four and a half months later during which time 60,000 soldiers became casualties either dead or wounded. It was and still remains the black day of the British Army.

Other battlefields included Devil's Wood, Peronne, Newfoundland Park, The Lochnagar Crater and our day ended with a visit to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing  - a massive arched structure with large laurel wreaths carved on top of the pillars. This memorial, designed by Edwin Lutyens is the largest of the Memorials to the Missing, and the last on the Western Front to be unveiled. Over 72,000 names of soldiers missing on the Somme are commemorated here. 

Most of these cemeteries are situated on the actual battlefields themselves. It's so hard to imagine the suffering and courage of those days when looking at the peaceful fields and woods today.


Last weekend on Remembrance Sunday we popped into London to see the Poppies at the Tower of London - another very humbling experience.

"At the going down of the sun, 
and in the morning, 
we will remember them"

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A walk on Thundersley Common

Just a quick post that I thought I'd share with you. I've just come back from a very impromptu but thoroughly enjoyable walk, leaving him-indoors doing the things that him-indoors wanted to do. It was such a gloriously mild afternoon it just had to be done. After the dull rainy days we've had recently it was a real pleasure to get out - plus I'm on a mission to get fit and what better way to go about it. Watch this space.

I lost count of all the birds I could hear singing. 

The fallen leaves were in abundance 

and very damp, but everything
 smelled of that lovely woody, autumnal mustiness

Several dog-walkers bid me good afternoon and I enjoyed taking in the fresh air.

 this cheeky little chappy followed me for some time and 
actually stood on my toes for his picture to be taken - so tame.

On my way back through the village I spotted this - a mini pop-up library for villagers to make use of - how cool is that.

Bye for now, see you soon x

Monday, 20 October 2014

Never a dull moment


I'd had my morning stroll around the garden and was having a quiet cup of coffee whilst reading the Sunday papers when our friendly neighbourhood pair of squirrels decided to come out to play.  Not content with the nuts we put out for them on a table by the fence, as always they found it fun to play on the bird feeders and boxes etc. 

One squirrel we call Superman -  because he doesn't only jump from one feeder to the other - a good metre away, he literally leaps through the air to get what he wants before the birds get there. Of course he's a lot bigger than they are so he wins every time.

These squirrels give us such a lot of pleasure all year round - we spend many afternoons watching their antics when they're either foraging for nuts and then burying them in our lawn (!!!) or chasing along our fence to see who gets to the nuts first.

This one was actually posing for the photo I took through my French windows. He sat there for ages as though he was waiting for my camera to snap him.

Thank you for all your comments you left on my last post - they mean a lot and are much appreciated.

Have a good week.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Anniversary trip

John treated us to a day out this week for our 44th wedding anniversary. We boarded the 70 year old and much preserved Paddle Steamer Waverley for a trip up the Thames to London.  It was a beautiful day, albeit a bit windy but nevertheless sunny. Because of this the boat couldn't dock at Southend pier so we were coached to Gravesend for our embarkation.

As you must be aware by now, I am passionate about London and this was a fabulous way of approaching it. Passing many landmarks, old warehouses, factories, ports areas, cranes and so much more besides.

This is the Queen Elizabeth ll bridge that joins Essex with Kent at Dartford 

I've only ever seen the Thames Barrier on the tv and it was fascinating to cruise past

Next came the O2 centre and the Emirates cable cars which takes you from one side to the other side of the river - a ride upon which is definitely on my wish list!

This is the Greenwich Maritime Centre and Royal Observatory

The Cutty Sark standing proudly in the background

When you are in the City you can never actually see the skyline and this was great to see it as we approached London

Again, Docklands is so vast that you can never appreciate it when walking about

Steaming towards Tower Bridge was just the most thrilling experience

and such excitement when it was opened for us to pass through

Once in the Pool of London we had a half an hour moored up before leaving

So what better way of spending the time marvelling at the scene around us 

This is the Old Custom House which we visited in my last post

And of course the majestic Tower of London - standing dominantly by the Thames

And so, as we steamed past Wapping Steps

we made our way back down the Thames towards home

A perfect day that fulfilled all my expectations.

See you soon x